My New York
December 19, 2008 § Leave a comment
Wet snow and sleet in New York; Philip is sleeping to the lullaby of Chris Matthews talking about the Franken recount: there’s no accounting for taste. It’s too warm in here, and the boyfriend snores…if I turn off the TV, he will wake. He has a big window–sliding doors to a terrace actually–with a classic New York view of lit up buildings. It reminds me of the city 40 years ago, when I was 12 and living close to here, on E. 79th St, absorbing the city as if it were the only New York, as if all the bus-drivers, newsstand owners, doormen, had been those things forever, eternal, as were the urine-scented streets, sweltering subways, and predatory loiterers in Times Square. When I was bit older and had read more, I envied those who knew New York in the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s. Now I can say I knew it in the 60’s and 70’s. I like holding all that history inside me; being a person so relentlesly interior, more disconnected than most from the public or external world, it’s nice to have enough memory piled up so that I can feel like a citizen of the world. Meanwhile my nieces are so confident of THEIR New York, the one that isn’t nearly as dangerous as their mother fears. To hear them talk, hear their claiming the city as their own, for now and the future, is startling and pleasing. It gives me a stronger grip on the city–as my parents’ years here fade in everyone’s memory, Ramona and Delilah are just beginning to make a mark. I, of course, feel as if I’ve written in snow, not just as in *writing*, but in living, my experiences here intense and deep but not broad. What’s happened to me here? I was molested (in a small way) at 11. I took LSD and went the movies, spending most of the film in the bathroom, playing with the sink facuets. I met my first drag queen. I went to great performances (Barishnykov, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Bates) and got drunk in lots of bars. I published my first and subsequent books and went to my friends’ book parties. I got sober in AA and heard the incredibly messy and fascinating details of hundreds of people’s lives, not quite stranger than fiction, but possibly more diverse. I endured 7 years of open-heart psycho-therapy. I cooked dinner for my husband in a glorified closet and put a Christmas tree on the coffee table, sometimes we were happy. When we weren’t anymore, we went to couples therapy , first to a woman on the Upper West Side who had decorated her office walls with vintage evening bags–the beaded or embroidered kind–which freaked my bushand out so we quit her, then tried a man who met us in the room where he also led groups, so that the 3 of us were surrounded by 7 or 8 empty chairs. This freaked my husband out so much he moved to Florida. (OK, that isn’t true, he moved for a job and also because I was having an afair. But I have something in common with those shrinks. Let’s embellish. ) I went on the Interent to meet men; had sordid and ridiculous and sexy sexual encounters; I fell in love. I spent 9 hours at a Tribeca cafe with my lover’s wife, held in place by a force of personality that explained quite a few years of strange boyfriend behavior. Lots of stuff has happened, and I’m not even talking about 9/11—nothing I went through that day was any different from anyone else. What I mean is, this is my city. Yet I don’t know many people here and never have. I just watch them. Sometimes want to sneak into the brain of a person on the street, and take a mind-print; sometimes I want to knock on the door of a brownstone with a lighted window; and sometimes want to find a giant broom and sweep everyone away.
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